Giants: Sadly, Only Shockey Is Offensive
BY Brian P. Dunleavy
In this month’s issue of Maxim, Jeremy Shockey invited anyone wanting “to get with him” to send a letter (with photo, of course) to the team’s offices. The image of venerable Giant owner Wellington Mara or tightly wound coach Jim Fassel opening that mail is worth the price of a decent offensive lineman (the team could use another one, by the way). But the organization expects a lot more this season than a few perfume-soaked cards. They’re talking Super Bowl, and they want Shockey and the offense to lead them there.
Unfortunately, Fassel et al. have a better chance of seeing Shockey score a “threesome with a mother and her two twins”—a desire the second-year tight end expressed in that same Maxim article—than they do of taking the field in Houston come January. Shockey is the most talkative Giant off the field (and his jersey is the team’s top seller), but he’s also emblematic of their offense on the field. Last season, Big Blue accumulated 5,825 total yards (sixth in the league). But they scored only 35 touchdowns, fewer than 21 of the NFL’s 32 teams. At the center of that oxymoronic “offense” was Shockey, who in between Page Six appearances led all NFL tight ends in receptions (74) and yards (894), but scored only two touchdowns.
Last Sunday’s opener showed the preseason hype over the offense to be a lot of hot air. The Giants defeated the Rams, 23-13, but failed to deliver as much offensive excitement as a postal worker carrying Shockey’s fan mail. Though they generated a respectable 336 total yards, they scored only one offensive touchdown (on a drive that started at their own 47), and Shockey totaled only three catches for 36 yards. He was invisible most of the second half, with only one grab for seven yards. Inside the Rams’ 20-yard line, QB Kerry Collins was 0-2 passing, including a badly under-thrown ball to a wide-open Shockey.
Which is perhaps why veteran defensive tackle Keith Hamilton expressed only cautious optimism about the rest of the season after he and the defense led the way on Sunday. Big Blue’s D sacked Rams’ QB Kurt Warner six times and collected three fumbles (including one for a TD by defensive end Kenny Holmes) and an interception. “There’s been a lot of talk about our offense,” Hamilton said. “But defense wins championships.” Then he added, “We won today. But I’ve seen a lot of teams win their first game, and then things turn to shit.” The Giant defense was able to make up for an all-too-quiet offense by beating up on the supposedly concussed Warner. But they won’t have the luxury of facing a queasy QB every week. As Collins said of the offense during the preseason, “There’s been a lot of talk, but we haven’t done anything yet. And we won’t until we execute consistently.” Hear that, Jeremy?
Jets: Stalling for Time, Very Slowly
BY Paul Forrester
If last Thursday’s 16-13 loss to Washington is any indication of what lies ahead for the New York Jets, this season could be already be over.
Fifteen games remain, but the lack of flexibility that Gang Green’s coaching staff demonstrated on opening night doesn’t bode well for a roster of players whose increasing age presents as great a liability as any opponent. Getting older isn’t an inherent evil (see Raiders, Oakland), but accommodations have to be made for it. Facing three-quarters of the season with a 39-year-old quarterback isn’t coach Herman Edwards’s fantasy, but it also shouldn’t be the reason the Jets have scored a mere 15 points a contest when Vinny Testaverde starts under center over the past two seasons. After 16 years in the league Testaverde is what he is: a drop-back passer with very limited mobility and touch. But he does have a strong arm. While that means the former Heisman winner’s 56.1 career completion percentage makes him a poor fit in offensive coordinator Paul Hackett’s so-called West Coast offense, it also indicates that Testaverde is probably better suited than the weaker-armed Chad Pennington to carry out Edwards’s desire to throw the ball long more this year.
But against the Redskins, the Jets threw the same screen passes and ran the same curl routes that made their offense so effective under Pennington last year. It’s too bad the large cast on Pennington’s left wrist prevented him from throwing any of those passes. Further complicating Testaverde’s job was the curious decision to keep the ball out of running back Curtis Martin’s hands—he carried the ball a mere 15 times in a close game. True, the Redskin defense may have made each of those carries a struggle, but at least with Martin, the Jets had a chance to beat down Washington’s untested defensive line and eat away precious time. Ironically, the Jets have run the ball less (15 times a game) over the past two years with the statue-like Testaverde under center than with the more mobile Pennington, who handed off an average of 27 times a game.
With the offense gridlocked at the intersection of questionable ability and dubious offensive theory, the Jets’ chances to field a competitive club, let alone a play-off squad, rest with a defense that is slow to gel—emphasis on “slow.”
Edwards’s obsession with annually revamping the defensive line has left the defense with a shiny new coat of pass rushers (average age of 25) atop an aging engine of linebackers and defensive backs (average age of 29). Consequently, while Gang Green was able to register four sacks against the Redskins, Washington quarterback Patrick Ramsey still found a way to complete 74 percent of his passes and elude the linebacking corps for a game-clinching 24-yard scamper in the fourth quarter. Defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell has plugged similar leaks before, but it may be too much to expect that the Jets can recover again from a defensive performance that allowed an average of 405 yards a game last year during the team’s 2-5 start.